The passage of new legislation in Maryland has provided hope for a minority group that is not only oppressed by our heteronormative world, but also forgotten and sidelined in the LGBT+ community.
The Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014 protects transgender Marylanders from discrimination based on labor, public housing, and employment. The previous provisions only protected individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation– leaving transgender people vulnerable to blatant discrimination. Approximately 54% of transgender Marylanders have reported experiencing or facing harassment based on their gender identity according to the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
The “T” in LGBT+ seems to have been forgotten ever since the beginning of the LGBT+ movement, which has always seemed to focus on achieving equality for homosexual, white males. Countless headlines have discussed the debate surrounding the morality and feasibility of gay marriage. Countless headlines have discussed the practicality of having openly gay people in the military. Countless headlines have discussed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding sexual orientation so proudly sported by the Boy Scouts of America. The amount of headlines devoted to the unique struggle of transgender people in our society is nothing in comparison.
Our society, which perpetuates the discriminatory gender binary, uniquely excludes and oppresses the transgender members of the LGBT+ community. This discrimination is quite evident in the work place. Forcing everyone to choose between identifying as a “male” or identifying as a “female” on job applications or insurance forms which force transgender people to conform and identify with a gender in which they may not feel comfortable.
The public education system also excludes transgender people. Certain activities, school bathrooms and locker rooms are often divided into “boys” and “girls”. Those who differ are usually excluded, ostracized, and forced to choose to identify with one gender. Additionally, the presence of transgender faculty in schools is incredibly rare. Transgender students struggling with the load of discrimination, which they are forced to bear, have no one to turn to in their time of need. Even our own federal government is a patriarchal and heteronormative institution. There have only been a few open transgender people elected to office making the transgender community severely underrepresented in our government. Furthermore, this underrepresentation is pretty dangerous, as few politicians take into account how new legislation will uniquely affect the transgender community. Even some pro-gay laws don’t include the transgender community.
Although the transgender community does face a significant amount of deliberate, blatant and often violent discrimination, much of the oppression that they face is ignorance. The incessant lack of knowledge about the transgender community breeds dangerous stereotypes and untrue generalizations. The easiest thing you can do to help end the violence towards the transgender community is educate yourself.
LGBT+ isn’t a synonym for “gay”. All individuals in the LGBT+ community are unique and deserve the ability to express themselves in a way that is free from violence. The Maryland House of Delegates finally realized this.
[Image Attribute: Flickr]